A steel-cage, no-referee, WWF-style wrasslin' match has broken out in U.S. District Court between lawyers Chuck McRae and Barry Gilmer. Two lawyers who honestly don't give a care about what anyone else thinks, know how to use every trick in the book, and will use every trick in the book to squash the other side.
McRae drew first blood when he sued Mr. Gilmer in Hinds County Chancery Court on July 21, 2016. However, this affair started when the Gilmer Law Firm sued to reopen an estate in Forrest on behalf of a client in May 2012. The action was dismissed two days later. The Gilmer firm reloaded and fired a legal malpractice lawsuit at the law firm that handled the estate. McRae claimed Gilmer only filed four pleadings and attended one hearing on behalf of his client in 18 months. McRae alleges that three of the pleadings were responses to motions for summary judgment submitted by the defendant.
Fast Forward to November 2013. McRae entered an appearance on behalf of the client, something that was surely not appreciated by the tribe of Gilmer. The Chancellor dismissed the lawsuit in September 2014. McRae claims he filed an appeal. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the dismissal and remanded the case for a rematch in March 2016. The complaint alleges that Gilmer and the defendant mediated the case and settled it in May 2016. The settlement agreement apparently directed that the funds be paid to the Gilmer Law Firm and did so on June 21, 2016. The lawsuit was dismissed and signed by Gilmer and client.
McRae states he was never paid for his services and argues he did all of the work for the client from November 2013 to the present but for the mediation. He said his firm performed the majority of the work and should be paid as such.
The complaint asks for an accounting of the settlement funds, a portion of the funds, punitive damages, and attorney's fees. He asked the court to order Gilmer to deposit the funds with attorney Betty Ruth Johnson. McRae is represented in this complaint by Johnson and Michele Biegel.
However, all Chancellors recused themselves and Justice Jess Dickinson appointed former Chancellor Janace Goree to hear the case.
First blood may have been drawn but there was plenty of blood left to spill and Barry Gilmer knows how to shed blood. Heads, pikes, walls. You get the idea. Gilmer didn't even respond in Chancery Court but instead removed the case to federal court. He stated that he lives in Alabama and the amount in question is more than $75,000. Hence the case qualifies for diversity jurisdiction in federal court.
Gilmer's notice of removal is one of the more colorful pleadings seen in recent years. Sharpen the swords and daggers. Gilmer flat out calls McRae's firm a "criminal organization":
In addition to diversity jurisdiction, the Complaint raises questions of federal subject matter jurisdiction as the Complaint is an attempt to further an ongoing criminal organization which is under the direct control of McRae Law Firm, PLLC, and its sole owner/member Chuck R. McRae.
Gilmer then begins to dish the dirt:
6. Plaintiff, McRae Law Firm, PLLC, and its owner/sole-member,Chuck R. McRae, are engaged in a criminal enterprise pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §1961. At all times relevant hereto, McRae Law Finn, PLLC, was and continues to be managed by non-lawyer named Robert Cox. Robert Cox is the subordinate agent of Chuck McRae. Robert Cox has been previously adjudicated a felon for embezzling monies entrusted to Robert Cox. At all times relevant hereto, Chuck McRae knew of Cox's criminal background but continued to allow Cox to manage not only McRae Law Firm, PLLC, but function as the second in command over the criminal enterprise described below.
Gilmer accuses McRae of using a convict to help him harass and poach clients from other lawyers:
7. Chuck R. McRae, Robert Cox, McRae Law Finn, PLLC, and others have repetitiously engaged and
continue to engage in a pattern and practice of abusing the judicial system, United States Postal Service and other government processes / administrations to fraudulent procure valuable contracts for the rendering of legal services by McRae Law Finn and Chuck R. McCrae. Specifically, Plaintiff (McCrae Law Firm, PLLC), Chuck McCrae and Robert Cox engaged in the cold solicitation of numerous third parties who were at the time contracted with other attorneys for the providing of legal services. Said cold solicitations were premeditated by Plaintiff, Chuck McRae, Robert Cox and other lawyers employed by Plaintiff. This premeditated and concerted effort included the design of telephonic manuscripts by Chuck McCrae, Robert Cox and others employed at McRae Law Finn, PLLC. Said manuscripts were then placed with a list of the third party persons to be solicited. McCrae then employed lawyers, law students and clericals to cold-contact said third parties and conduct a solicitation pursuant to the telephonic manuscript. Said manuscript and/or solicitation insisted upon termination of a legal contract then existing between the solicited third party and other attorneys not associated with Plaintiff and Chuck McRae. Upon the cancellation of the contract by the third party, McCrae and his consorts would then place the third party under duress to contract with McCrae and Mccrae Law Finn, PLLC, for the rendering of identical legal services as called for by the recently cancelled contract for legal services. This concerted and premeditated effort by McCrae Law Finn, PLLC, Chuck McCrae and others resulted in the procurement of numerous contracts which solicited away the value that is associated with those cases and vested said value with McRae Law Finn, PLLC and/or Chuck McRae. These cold solicitations for value took place across state lines, involved third parties domiciled in statesother than Mississippi and said third parties were presently contracted with attorneys (and/or law firms) in Texas at the time the solicitations took place. These cold solicitations were supervised by Robert Cox at the instruction of Chuck McCrae with Chuck McCrae having knowledge of Robert Cox's criminal background. McRae solicited and continues to solicit these cases contrary to the laws and attorney ethical considerations in Mississippi. McRae's conduct amounts to a theft or illegal conversion of the fruits of such cases to the extent that it amounts to violation of the criminal statutes in the state of Mississippi. This misconduct amounts to commercial theft and has been a pattern and practice of the Plaintiff and Chuck McRae for many years. This criminal enterprise violates several federal and state laws which merge together to form more than one instance of "racketeering activity" as defined by 18 U.S.C. §1961. This pattern and practice has occurred within the last ten years and shall hereinafter be referred to as the ..McRae Enterprise". (Barry, learn how to use paragraphs.)
Gilmer argues such coordination and associations between McRae, his firm, Cox, Beigel, and Betty Ruth Johnson are constitute a criminal enterprise that is subject to the federal RICO laws and should be treated as such. Criminal charges do not have to exist for a court to find civil damages for RICO violations. However, Gilmer then gets personal, real personal:
8. Plaintiff's Complaint pleads facts similar to the enterprise described above in that Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel seek to divest Barry W. Gilmer of monies owed to third parties to which Plaintiff has no vested interest. Plaintiff and Chuck McRae are represented by attorneys Michelle Biegel and Betty Ruth Johnson. Upon information and belief, Michelle Biegel is presently engaged in a romantic relationship with Chuck McRae. As a result, Michelle Biegel and Siegel's employer, Betty Ruth Johnson, have intimate knowledge of the McRae Enterprise. The undertaking of the legal representation of the McRae Enterprise and/or the filing of the fraudulent Complaint on behalf of Plaintiff and Chuck McRae constitutes a furtherance of the illegal McRae Enterprise described above. Further, Betty Ruth Johnson, NK/ A B. Ruth Johnson, is guilty of actively committing overt acts in conspiracy with Plaintiff and Chuck McRae in furtherance of the McRae Enterprise by issuing written instructions via e-mail directing that Chuck McRae contact Gilmer's client, Bobby Gibson, by telephone and extricate privileged, confidential information concerning Gilmer's services while tape recording the same conversation contrary to state law, federal law and Mississippi Bar regulations. Betty Ruth Johnson committed this illegal act when she knew that Chuck McRae had never met Bobby Gibson or even been in his presence....
Ouch. Just ouch. However, McRae ignored these slights upon his character and filed a motion in U.S. District Court yesterday that asked for a full accounting of the funds and deposit said the disputed portion of the funds with the court.
Stay tuned. This looks to be a serious case of trench warfare where the rules of war get buried in the mud. The case was assigned to Judge Carlton Reeves and Magistrate Keith Ball.